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BY T. BENSLEY, BOLT COURT, FLEET STREET.
Is custom requires a Preface to this new volume, after what have preceded it as well in the CensURA LITERARIA as in the former one of the present undertaking, it can hardly be expected that we should still enforce at much length the use of Bibliographical knowledge. The growing fashion of this pursuit has excited some obloquy, originating perhaps rather from a superficial than profound view of its tendency. It is so easy to speak with scorn of a skill in title-pages, and all the numerous haters of books are so ready and so happy to join in the contempt, that it is caught without examination, and repeated with a senseless triumph.
To this triumph Ignorance is perfectly welcome : she may, if she chooses, glory in her own blindness : for
my part, I shall leave her to herself.
It is clearly for the interests of learning, that a due attention should be raised to all its curiosities. The value of literary history has been duly appreciated by all men of cultivated minds: and it cannot well be questioned, that the present zeal for the possession of old books tends to encourage and advance it.
Much has been said, and many strange lamentations have been uttered about the prices of the Roxburglie Library. It is the individual opinion of the present writer that they form a subject of exultation, rather than of regreti А more effectual impulse to the search and revival of these treasures could not have been given! Some selfish Collector, who wished for his own private ends to obtain the articles he wanted without rivalry, may declaim at the folly and extravagance of that sale. But hence the attention will be drawn to many a rare gem, which, while it was cheap, would have called forth no interest. I care not, if it be only whim and fashion that direct these things: the whim and fashion are directed to very good ends.
How can a young nobleman of illustrious rank, and princely fortune, begin life more innocently, more genetously, 'nay more virtuously, than by entering into these rivalries? And in whose hands is there a probability that these treasures will be more safe or more accessible?
As to Bibliography, it is so idle to suppose that the books of the present day only are wanting, and that all are in uše which are worthy of being used, that most liberal inquirers, however book-learned, will be astonished and shocked on looking into any copious and learned catalogues of the last and precedent centuries, more especially the foreign, to observe how much has been done in the most laborious and profound manner, of which they had not even a conception! *
Whatever may be said, Bibliography, so far from being exhausted, is still in a very infant state with us. mains to be known of the early printed books; and even the Caxtons have not yet been perfectly investigated. Though Ritson had such confidence in his own researches, that he boldly pronounced the mention of a work, of which he himself could not otherwise ascertain the existence, to be a
• Take for instance Bibliotheca Heinnitha, Lupita bat. fou, 19mo.
forgery; forgery; yet time has since produced several of which he had never even heard.
It is among the advantages of the progression of such a work as this, that
vires acquirit eundo. It gradually unlocks the collections, and draws forth the assistance, of those who have heen engaged in similar pursuits. How important, nay how necessary such assistance is, scarce any one will be so confident in his own strength as to deny ! Conference and comparison are peculiarly requisite in these inquiries: and the result of much casual information, which would otherwise bave perished with the occasion, is thus preserved and embodied !
Whether from the oblivion into which they had formerly fallen, or the very high prices which they have now attained, black-letter books have for perhaps a century been little accessible to the generality of the literati! But that a large portion of them are worthy of attention, and that of many the perusal is positively necessary to the investigations which occupy the various labours of the learned, I shall scorn to endeavour to prove; but take as an admitted truth.
Hence then the obvious use of the contents of the BiBLIOGRAPHER will follow! Setting aside the mere selfish Collector whose whole view is the possession of an exclusive treasure, all who seek books for their legitimate purposes must be sensible of essential aid from these notices and abstracts, when the originals are not to be procured : while the entire reprints of The Paradise of Dainty Devices and The England's Helicon acld most valuable desiderata to their poetical libraries. Of how much renains to be done every day's experience